Boynton Beach is becoming quite the spot for beer enthusiasts these days, more so now with the current planned opening of a new brewery, Wild Oak Artisan Ales, within its borders.
Joining behemoth Due South Brewing Co. and newcomers Coppertop Brewing and Devour Brewing, Wild Oak Artisan Ales will fill a niche in South Florida's scene by brewing beers that embody two requirements: All of the beers will contain wild microbes, and they will touch wood.
In that mission, brewer Matt Manthe has teamed up with an old friend, Christopher McElveen, to create something unique in our IPA-laden and culinary-beer-centric beer world.
For the past year, beer enthusiasts have been able to catch samples of some of Wild Oak's creations at various beer festivals across the state. With an unmistakable branding of black font upon textured brown paper, they've been making stylish inroads to creating a name for themselves with the festival set.
"A lot of those breweries use one type of brewing method, or technique, and employs that throughout all their beers," Manthe explained. "We use different techniques, different types of yeast and bacteria for different beers to try to accomplish different things. We've tried using different malt bills, different sugars, different types of hops. We want to have lots of different flavors, a pretty diverse portfolio... Really the only requirements for our beer is it has to have brettanomyces, and it has to be aged in some type of barrel or foeder."
Manthe and McElveen have been partners in beer for years, having met at Clemson University and forming a bond that made a lasting impression on both. Then in 2009, the duo reunited. "Matt ended up working at Thomas Creek [a brewery in Greenville, South Carolina]... He called one day... They had an opening. We started working together for a year until he went to Germany to train, while I stayed at Thomas Creek."
2010 saw Manthe leave the States for a stint in Germany to receive a brewmaster diploma from the Berlin Institute for Fermentation and Biotechnology, which added to his scientific pedigree from Clemson that included a bachelor's of science in microbiology.
Upon his return, he began working immediately with the folks at Green Bench Brewing in downtown St. Petersburg as it was getting off the ground. Finally, in January 2012, Manthe moved over to our coast to join the team at Brewzzi in Boca Raton. All the while, McElveen continued his hard work at Thomas Creek.
"We had talked about doing something," McElveen said of the Wild Oak idea. "I got a call one day [from Matt] and said 'Hell yes,' it would be much better than any other job.
"From planning through the business plan... it's been over a year and a half."
Manthe and McElveen felt confident that this new brewery concept would be a success. "Between the two of us," Manthe explained, "we saw pretty much every aspect of business and production at Thomas Creek."
As for a location for this new brewery, the duo thought long and hard over the space and environmental requirements, hoping to find a place that would accommodate their self-described "niche product."
"We're always open to the best spot," McElveen said. "Boynton's been very nice and welcoming, but we're not going to put a pound on it. They've talked about quite a few things that would make it easy for us to open, so it's definitely near the top, but we do still have options available. I think we're leaning towards Boynton. It's a nice area. There's already other breweries in the area and a beer scene and beer culture growing around there."
Manthe added that they didn't want to be the only brewery in town. "Our beer is probably more of a niche product; we recognize that. It's not necessarily for everybody, although we think that if everyone tries our beer hopefully they'll find at least one that they like."
Even with a location figured out, there's still the issue of permits. Brewing beer commercially is still a highly regulated industry, to the degree that local, state, and federal paperwork must be completed. In these brewer's perfect world? Their hope is by February.
But once all of the permits and construction are all said and done, Manthe and McElveen will be able to focus on that one all-important product: the beer.
"We do a wide range of styles," McElveen shared. "Between a Berliner weisse at 2.9 percent abv to a porter all the way up to 17.7 percent."
Like the Autumne Cerise, a red farmhouse ale aged on tart cherries that lend it a dry tart character; the Natural Born Farmer saison dry hopped with Amarillo that produces a dry peppery beer with a lot of pineapple aroma; or the Subcutaneous Peril, an imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels with that Wild Oak standard: brettanomyces.
"We're not trying to be weird or different; it just seemed to be a niche that fit exactly the types of beers that we always love... There's been something wild about it."
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.